In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera (Gen. 18:1-22:24) three angels of God come to bring news to Abraham and Sarah. Even at their advanced age, the messengers tell them, Sarah would bear Abraham a son in the coming year. This news causes Sarah to laugh with a mixture of wonder, disbelief and joy, and when the child is born the following year, he is called “Yitzchak”, “Isaac” meaning “he shall laugh”.
But of course Abraham already has a son, Ishmael, born to his concubine Hagar. Sarah had urged Abraham to impregnate Hagar, thinking she herself would never bear a child. But now that Sarah has a son, she sees the older boy as a threat to her and to her son. She demands that Abraham put Hagar and Ishmael out of the household. Abraham is deeply grieved at this, but when God tells him to heed Sarah’s bidding, he does so. He puts Hagar and Ishmael out in the wilderness with a loaf of bread and a skin of water. When the food and water are gone, Hagar, seeing only death as a future for her and the child, puts him under a bush so she doesn’t have to watch him die. Then an angel comes to her to tell her that the child will grow up and found a great nation. With this in mind, Hagar lifts up her eyes and sees a well of water. She fills the skin with water and gives it to the boy to drink. In the very next sentence, we learn that the boy has grown up, married and become a bowman.
The well that Hagar saw did not appear by magic. It was there all the time, but in her despair she could not see it. It was only when she lifted up her eyes that she was able to find the means to her and the boy’s salvation. The same is true for all of us. When we think there is no way out, sometimes all we need to do is lift up our eyes.